Wildflowers carpet the cliff tops, wetland, heaths and even roadside verges in Orkney with a colourful display from April to September. There are 500 native plants and 200 more that have been introduced, making Orkney a flower-lovers haven.
Many come here to see one of Britain’s rarest flowers, the Scottish primrose (primula scotica) which is only found in Orkney, Sutherland and Caithness. Orkney sites for this small plant with deep purple flowers include Yesnaby, the west coasts of Rousay and Westray, North Hill on Papa Westray and South Walls. It flowers in May and July.
Sea cliffs are covered in the pink haze of sea pink or thrift in the spring, along with sea campion, spring squill, bird’s foot trefoil (known as cocks and hens in Orkney), eye bright, wild thyme, grass of Parnassus and ox-eye daisies. Ten per cent of the UK’s maritime grasses can be found in Orkney and include marram grass and lyme grass. And in bogs you can find sphagnum moss. Marshland and moorland are the places to see rare orchids including the red Northern marsh orchid, the early marsh orchid, the heath orchid and frog orchid. Oyster plants grow near the shore.
The clean air of Orkney supports many types of lichen. Ling and bell heather carpet moorland in Hoy and Rousay, sprinkled with patches of cotton grass. Wet areas provide habitat for insect-eating plants, the common and great sundews and butterwort.
Woodland plants thrive in Orkney in Berriedale Wood, an important native wood on Hoy. Here grow rowan, hazel, birch and aspen. In Binscarth Woods near Finstown, Balfour Castle on Shapinsay and at Woodwick in Evie, the woodland floor shimmers purple when the bluebells flower in May. The trees provide a home to the sparrowhawk.
On roadside verges and unsprayed fields you will find fat hen, celandines and primroses. Clouds of yellow gorse brighten up coastal areas and angelica grows wild.
Schoolchildren in Orkney have planted many species of locally grown wildflower seeds including vetches, red clover, red campion and knapweed to encourage bees.
A number of private gardens have been opened to the public in recent years for the Orkney Garden Trail, helping to raise funds for charity. Find out more from our link on the right hand side of the page.
Inside Nature and Wildlife
Orkney is a wonderful place to spot wildlife and is home to some very rare species of animals.More
The RSPB looks after 13 nature reserves across Orkney, so it’s clear the islands are a very important area for birds. Large numbers pass through in spring and autumn on migration, with a number of r...More
As well as the 'four seasons in one day' saying, many folk describe Orkney as having only two seasons a year! Long, bright days in the summer, and short, dark days in the winter. But there is a lot more to our weather than that...More
Orkney’s stunning coastline has a rich variety of habitats - from the high red sandstone cliffs of Hoy to the sheltered beaches of Sanday, the gentle shoreline of Scapa Flow to the storm-battered, rugged coast of West Mainland.More
Orkney's abundant sealife makes the islands a wildlife lover's paradise.More
Although it's often said that you can experience all four seasons in a single day in Orkney, there are still clear distinctions as the months pass by. From the appearance of lambs and cows in the fields during Spring and the long, hazy days of Summer, to the harvest of Autumn and the wild and invigorating Winter, Orkney has a season for every mood.More